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OKC Central Chat transcript, June 20, 2014

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve's Q&A's on Fridays at 10:30 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: June 20, 2014 at 11:53 am •  Published: June 20, 2014

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve's Q&A's on Fridays at 10:30 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Below is an unedited transcript of the chat.

NewsOK 10:07 a.m. Good morning! Steve will be logging in at 10:30 a.m., but you can start submitting your questions now.
Gary T 10:34 a.m. Good morning Steve! Is there one thing you have noticed on your walks around downtown that OKC needs to drastically improve on?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:41 a.m. Yes. The city needs to focus on the basics. I saw what appeared to be a drug deal underway just across the street from St. Anthony Hospital at a house that would look like a set for the old show "Wired." Sure enough, when I commented about it on Twitter, several people said they too had seen activity at the house and one person was assaulted walking by there the previous week. If there is a crack house across the street from a hospital that is frequented daily by thousands of people, families, women and children, how is this not getting the attention of the police? I also realized that on a walk like this, one could make a huge difference by simply tracking all the code violations and calling them into the city. We're talking about high weeds and brush where vagrants were drinking and who knows what else on a Saturday morning. We're talking about downed city street signs and light poles. We're talking about the idea of "broken windows" that Rudy Giuliani so effectively tackled in cleaning up New York City. Last night I did some more walking along Automobile Alley and was surprised to find some pretty dangerous holes left in the sidewalks. It doesn't take much to get these things addressed. Call the city's action line at 297-2535 or visit
Gary T 10:42 a.m. What is the latest on Mick Cornett's push to get the substation adjacent to the C2S park relocated? Are there any efforts to get other substations moved like the ones at 10th and I-235 and 4th and Classen?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. It's been pretty quiet of late. Yes, there is an ongoing discussion on possibly relocating the substation at NW 10 and I-235.
Guest 10:43 a.m. One thing lacking in OKC is a major retailer such as a Nordstrom. We need something that is a step up from Dillard's. And...the Saks at the outlet shops is absolutely not the answer; night and day between Saks off Fifth and an actual Saks Fifth Avenue. Do you see anything to address this need in the future??? Thanks.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. I don't see it happening. The truth is the era of department stores is seen by many as coming to an end, or at least the days of department stores expanding are certainly over.
Concerned Preservationist 10:44 a.m. You’ve recently mentioned that a future tower seems the most likely development for the Sheridan/Hudson block. Would such a development preclude renovation of the bus station building? It would be a shame to lose this structure to demolition. A conversion to a 50’s style diner, or a jazz and blues club would provide an eclectic use for the building,and would retain at least some of of the historical and architectural character of the area.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. I've been assured by people "in the know" that the bus station will not be threatened. It is safe from everything I've heard, and your ideas aren't far off from potential future possibility.
Gary T 10:45 a.m. When will the Salvation Army be moved into its new headquarters at 10th and Penn to get the old headquarters at SW 5th and Hudson torn down?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. I suspect it will be early next year.
Gary T 10:46 a.m. How is the Century Center construction coming along? Also, do you know what other tenants will be in the building?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:47 a.m. I had a story on this today:
I talked with folks involved in the development and they say construction is now slightly ahead of schedule. Look for a move by OPUBCO in early 2015.
Gary T 10:47 a.m. When will we get renderings on the OG&E tower?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:48 a.m. I don't know yet. It may still be a while. But I expect Stage Center will be history by September. I had an update this last week:
Candy 10:48 a.m. When is PlanOKC going to be complete?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. Good question! I plan to contact Planning Director Aubrey Hammontree this next week to see if she will be an upcoming guest. As an aside, we're looking at a visit with Urban Renewal director Cathy O'Connor next month and City Manager Jim Couch has agreed to do another chat as well.
Gary T 10:49 a.m. With 21c, the new police headquarters, apartments at 4th and Shartel, Civic Center Flats, Civic Center renovations and others probably not even out to the public yet, there seems to be a lot of development activity going on around the jail, in spite of the jail. When do you think we will hear about a proposal to move it? I would think once that happens, that would become more of a hotspot of development than it is already.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. I don't see anything happening in the current circumstances. A change in thinking about whether a new jail is fully needed, whether the jail is really appropriate for dealing with so many people with addiction and mental health issues, and whether Oklahoma City is willing to put some serious resources into addressing mental health and addiction to me seem to be issues and questions that need to be delved into. But taxpayers have shown no appetite for simply paying millions for another jail when this one isn't even 25 years old (but has aged badly due to corruption involved in its design, construction and political oversight by prior elected Oklahoma County officials).
Kim 10:52 a.m. Have you heard of any other delays with The Rise? The constructions seems to be going very slow. The sidewalk facing 23rd St. has been torn up for several weeks now. Are they experiencing delays with the city or is it all internal?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:55 a.m. Renovation projects like this rarely go on schedule. That said, Jonathan Russell has dealt with some internal issues as well. Construction is continuing. I saw it yesterday. The rain is clearly not helping - I drove by yesterday and the whole site was a muddy swamp. But again, I remind everyone, real estate development, especially when it involves old properties, is very complicated and often takes longer than expected. Just ask anyone who launches into a home renovation in neighborhoods like Heritage Hills.
Kim 10:55 a.m. What is a realistic expectation for the completion of The Rise? Are they in danger of losing any tenants? Have they lost any tenants so far?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:55 a.m. The tenants I've talked to say they're still on board and not worrying much.
Kim 10:56 a.m. Do you have a list of all the tenants for The Rise and what kind of establishment it will be?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. Yes. I had a story on the tenants of The Rise last winter:
Ben 10:57 a.m. What is that foul smell in downtown OKC? It used to be more confined to the I40 area, but recently it's started moving over towards Deep Deuce, and to be completely honest, it's pretty rough on a hangover.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. I compare it to sour or stale chicken soup. A friend said yesterday it smelled like Lima Beans cooking. It is from the Southwestern Producers Cotton Co-op just south of Lower Bricktown. And when you read discussions elsewhere excitedly talking about the development of high-rise apartments on the lumberyard site south of Harkins Theater, just remember that this development would be immediately next to the cotton co-op. Add to that consideration details I uncovered about this proposed development that I wrote about on my OKC Central blog:
Gary T 11:01 a.m. Are there any other parking garages in DT that the city could add floors to that they haven't already?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:01 a.m. Not easily.
Paul 11:01 a.m. Any news on First National Center? I heard they're calling for offers. Do you think it will sell?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:04 a.m. I know the owners want to sell. I know there are people wanting to buy. But I'm also aware that the owners want up to $30 million (or more?) and that this price is widely seen as being about $20 million more than what the property is worth. I learned long ago to not get my hopes up when it comes to First National. It has been cursed with a series of bad owners for 20 years.
Ladd 11:04 a.m. Loved the night shot of Automobile Alley today in your article. Is that available as a print?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:05 a.m. Nope. It's blog only:
John 11:05 a.m. From all of us architects out there, who should we be hitting up for work?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:07 a.m. Everyone?
Cashmere 11:07 a.m. When and how could the Pull-Apart site be developed? It is uglier than the Coop that everyone curses.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:08 a.m. I can see a time in the future when developers might want to do something with the property. But it will have extensive dirt contamination (at least I'd suspect it would). I don't know how it could be done without some serious Brownfields grant and loan assistance.
Cinnamon 11:08 a.m. Have you heard any news on the Preftakes block?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:09 a.m. Expect a big building.
Waffleton 11:09 a.m. will one of the proposed/speculative towers downtown have a wafflehouse on the bottom floor? On a serious note, I think a good old school type diner would do well downtown. What are the plans for the old bus station? Has there been any talk into how it will be repurposed? If a new tower is built on the preftakes block and with the OGE tower there will be lots of new people in that general area.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:10 a.m. I think we'll have to a wait a few more months before we see what may be developed on the block. I doubt a Waffle House is going to happen despite Tyler's campaign.
Ken R 11:10 a.m. Would it be possible to insert "Linked" buttons on articles, along with "Facebook" and "Twitter."
Steve Lackmeyer 11:10 a.m. I don't know. Tiffany? What do you say?
Bunny 11:10 a.m. Do you think we will hear news on some of the buildings around Fred Jones being developed soon?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:10 a.m. Yes.
Honey 11:10 a.m. Have you heard news of a full fledged Marriott going into Bricktown?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:11 a.m. Bricktown over the next couple of years is about to experience the most significant era of redevelopment and construction since the development of Lower Bricktown.
guest 11:11 a.m. As Automobile Alley existed on what is now Broadway, why was the Ford Assembly plant built over where it is now, and not right on AA? History question for you today. Were there other assembly plants built over by Ford, but are now torn down?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:17 a.m. I think you have to keep in perspective that while cars were being "assembled" on the upper floors of some of the early day dealerships that were built along Broadway, these were still dealerships. The Ford Assembly Plant was a much bigger property and operation. I'm not sure Broadway even had a spot for something like that when it was built in 1914-1915. And yes, there were many assembly plants built during that time. I don't know how many are still standing, but I'm fairly certain others have survived.
Guest Reader 11:18 a.m. Can you give us a brief understanding of how NewsOk decides what is "early access" on the front page. All too often a story is early access for more than one day but then if someone posts a link on Facebook one can access it that route without having to wait until Newsok opens the limitations. There doesn't seem to be any consistency there.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:19 a.m. I will try to get a NewsOk editor to answer this.
Fantasia 11:20 a.m. What is the status of the Central Park? I saw drawings of the park that moved the sidewalk to allow for the Film Exchange building potentially.... but trees were in the place of the building.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:21 a.m. I see no way that the Film Exchange building survives. The out-of-state park designers at Hargreaves Associates want it gone.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:21 a.m. Expect park construction to ramp up this next year.
Guest 11:21 a.m. Are you attending the wheeler district design charette?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:21 a.m. Yep. I look forward to it!
Guest Reader 11:21 a.m. Because of the success of this live news chat I am guessing that is why a similar chat has started less frequently regarding Edmond? I watched it play out yesterday and it seemed the Newsok person did not know the answers to many questions. Thank you for what YOU do!
Steve Lackmeyer 11:22 a.m. Thanks. It's a tricky thing to pull off.
Kitty 11:22 a.m. Do you think we will hear about the "new" company moving to downtown that will not be an energy company this summer?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:22 a.m. Yes. But I say that in the broadest sense and it's a play no one is expecting or talking about.
Guest 11:23 a.m. As OPUBCO moves downtown, what exactly will stay up on Broadway Extension? Just the printing press?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:23 a.m. Yep. Just the printing press.
Jade 11:23 a.m. Have you heard if Aubrey is going to build a campus or a tower on his land over off of Broadway?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:24 a.m. I don't know. I am hearing that Aubrey McClendon is looking at doing things "differently" this time around, but I don't know what that means.
John 11:24 a.m. What is the status on the Capitol renovations?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:24 a.m. They've been funded....
Guest 11:24 a.m. To the 10:43 Guest comment. Van Mauer coming into Quail Springs is a step above Dillards and one step below Nordstrom. It will be a great asset to our shopping options, plus will be new in design and really encourage our Macy's and Dillards stores to step up their game and in-store design.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:24 a.m. Great point!
John 11:24 a.m. What is the current obsession with utilizing cargo containers? I understand adaptive reuse, but the buildings won't withstand the ages (look at stage center) and there has to be a better recycling program for them.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:26 a.m. I'm not sure Stage Center is really a great comparison here, but I do get what you're saying. It's a popular design at the moment.
Jade 11:26 a.m. Have you heard if there are other towers besides the Bricktown towers, convention center hotel, and Preftakes block being discussed? If so where?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:28 a.m. OK, so let me just be clear on this: I REALLY doubt we will see the Bricktown towers developed, at least I don't see how they can be developed under the current circumstances, as they are shown in the renderings, and at the price claimed to investors. But will we see a tower on the Preftakes block? It's very likely. Will we see a conference hotel? Possibly. And that, for now, will be it.
John 11:28 a.m. When will the Humphrey's share the Ferris wheel with the people of OKC?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:28 a.m. When they develop the Wheeler district at the old downtown airpark.
Ginger 11:28 a.m. I heard the Bricktown Canal was supposed to be expanded south to Reno along the north/south railroad by Harding and Shelton's offices? Is that fact of legend?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:29 a.m. That was in the master plan. Bricktown merchants attempted to have such an expansion included in MAPS 3, but Mayor Mick Cornett refused to let that be considered as part of the ballot.
Foxy 11:29 a.m. Who owns the parking lot south of Reno down to S. 4th St. just east of EKG/Shields by the rail road tracks? Do you see that being developed ever?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:30 a.m. If you are talking about the parking lot immediately adjacent to the BNSF railway viaduct south of Reno, that is owned by the city. I think, but I'm not certain, it's expected to be incorporated into the future transit hub.
Daisy 11:30 a.m. Anything new on the horizon from Dowell?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:30 a.m. Not so far.
Another Guest 11:31 a.m. Steve - there is a new department store coming to OKC. Von Maur is working on their Quail Springs location, opening this Fall. They will be a great addition to our market and offer a more upscale product.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:31 a.m. Yep.
Champagne 11:31 a.m. Are there any new developments in the works for Auto Alley that we have not heard?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:31 a.m. Potentially more housing. Stay tuned.
Cheyenne 11:31 a.m. What business or improvements do you think will make the Farmer's Market explode quickly with development like Film Row has?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:31 a.m. The boulevard design will either make or break the Farmer's Market area.
Carmen 11:32 a.m. Besides the Wheeler District, have you heard of any other developments going in south of the River?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:32 a.m. Nothing firm.
Northsider 11:32 a.m. Have your seen the rendering for the new exit ramp to the OKC downtown blvd just behind Bass Pro. It would be nice to know how this part will tie into the street grid behind Harkins Theater
Steve Lackmeyer 11:33 a.m. The designs call for an intersection at Oklahoma Avenue.
Interested 11:33 a.m. I know this isn't your beat, but the woman you keep referencing who has this beat never reports on it. Any news on tenants for Nichols Hills Plaza?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:33 a.m. It's my understanding there's nothing new to report yet...
Guest 11:34 a.m. What alternatives are eligible for federal funding? Any alternate that is evaluated in the Environmental Assessment (EA) and selected as the preferred alternative will be eligible for federal funding provided the EA results in a Finding of No Significant Impact, or FONSI by Federal Highway Administration. Federal funds are allocated to ODOT directly, and to cities like Oklahoma City through Metropolitan Planning Organizations, like ACOG, the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments. Funding availability is subject to state and local matching funds requirements, other federal planning requirements, and agency budgetary constraints.   How will the selected alternative be funded? The current agreement between the City and ODOT specifies that ODOT will allocate federal funds towards the Boulevard construction within the former right-of-way for I-40. As all alternatives under consideration include work outside the former right-of-way, it is anticipated that the project agreement will be amended after the completion of the environmental process. Funding sources and commitment of funds by ODOT and Oklahoma City will be determined at that time.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:35 a.m. Ow. This question is good. But it gives me a headache. And know it's important I ask this of ODOT, and knowing what effort it will take gives me an even bigger headache. You just added to my work load next week. I hope you're happy.
Terry 11:35 a.m. Steve, were you able to find out if the basement of the Plaza Court is currently being used for anything? It sure would be great to see something like the old "Bowery" in that spot again.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:35 a.m. No, I haven't.
Buffy 11:35 a.m. When do you think we will have our next big announcement downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:36 a.m. Hard to say. But it could be this next month. I'm not in control.
Interested 11:36 a.m. Steve, Nordstrom is expanding. Look at their website and see all the new locations they have in the works.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:37 a.m. My understanding is these are mostly modified Nordstrums. Forgive me if I am wrong on this. But I'm sticking with the overall thought I expressed earlier.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:38 a.m. Earlier a reader asking about how stories are posted, and the thinking behind early access, etc. Alan Herzberger, NewsOK managing editor, has our answer.
Alan Herzberger, Digital Managing Editor - The Oklahoman & 11:38 a.m. Some of our investigation and enterprise stories will be released exclusively on this site, providing “early access” to our valued subscribers. If you are a current subscriber to The Oklahoman you always have full access to this site and all of our products. If a subscriber shares a story on social media, they are allowing access to their friends and followers for that story through that link. Granted, it's not a hard pay wall, but it's offering additional value and access to subscribers to The Oklahoman.
Terry 11:38 a.m. People keep chiming in on possible expansion of streetcar routes even before they start construction on the first leg. Since we're just hypothesizing at this point, I'll give it a go myself. Once the first phase is complete, the streetcar needs to expand west on Sheridan to Classen Blvd., then north on Classen to 23rd, then east to Broadway, then south till it ties into the Broadway leg again. Second, extend a leg south to Capital Hill. This would basically cover all the current core districts including: Film Row, the Plaza District, Uptown, Midtown, Capital Hill and even to a smaller degree Farmers Market without disrupting current neighborhoods such as Heritage Hills or Mesta Park. It would also establish a positive connection to the southside where I see the core growth moving once Midtown and Core-to-Shore reach build out. If you notice I left out an extension to the Health Sciences Center. The reason is because that area is developed like in suburbia where streetcar users would be forced to walk long distances thru parking lots and landscape areas just to reach the front doors of the areas buildings. It doesn't make sense there until development patterns are made to more urban standards.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:39 a.m. This all makes sense. Now I'll tell you what's being discussed and what's likely to happen. First, we will almost certainly see an expansion of the streetcar, sooner than many may realize, into Capitol Hill. Second, we will very likely see an expansion east either into the health sciences area and/or the John F. Kennedy and Medical Neighborhoods.
Bambi 11:40 a.m. Could the city develop a cohesive park on the right of way that runs through Deep Deuce Apartments? It seems like that is a perfect way to use the land that otherwise is just grass. Does the city own that ROW or does someone else?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:41 a.m. That easement is owned by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. I doubt the agency wants to see big permanent improvements made atop the easement, but I can see them entertaining some light park improvements. Maybe a volleyball court, picnic tables and a playground?
Cookie 11:41 a.m. Who owns the original Daily Oklahoman building on Broadway and 4th St? That building is amazing!
Steve Lackmeyer 11:43 a.m. I agree. I love that building. It was designed by Andrew Solomon Layton, who also designed City Hall, the County Courthouse, the Oklahoma State Capitol, the Skirvin Hotel and the old Central High School. The Gaylord family for decades have provided huge support for the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City and it speaks volumes that they gave this building, perhaps their most treasured legacy, to the organization after the old downtown YMCA building was devastated by the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building.
Bianca 11:44 a.m. Do you see any national retail chains moving into downtown or do you see the local stores expanding as the population of residents downtown grow?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:44 a.m. National chains have kicked the tires and come very, very close to doing a deal. But so far, they've shied away.
Terry 11:44 a.m. Once Sandridge has completed it's downtown complex do you see them developing their huge lots on Broadway and 5th St.? Building out these sites with more retail would go a long way towards creating a seamless retail corridor between Automobile Alley and downtown.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:45 a.m. I don't see SandRidge developing that property now. I really wish it could be developed as you suggest.
Misty 11:45 a.m. I heard Saturn Grill in Midtown closed. That brought a tear to my eye. Will something new go in there or will it be empty?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:45 a.m. There's a lot restaurant improvements in that space now. I suspect someone else might take a shot at it.
Ivy 11:45 a.m. When will the Marion be done? Is it for sale condos or apartments?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:45 a.m. Early next year. Rental.
Guest 11:46 a.m. Do you think the new Brickopolis development will be successful? Do you think it will be anything special or a glorified Chuck E. Cheese? Could this be the beginning of a trend that brings more family and children-oriented businesses to Bricktown?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:46 a.m. it's difficult to say at this point. Clearly the marketing indicates it will be marketed to families.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:46 a.m. OK folks, that's it for today. Have a great weekend!
Steve Lackmeyer 11:47 a.m. Today's chat logged 70 comments with 275 readers.
by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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